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Mercyhurst announces new Institute for Applied Behavioral Studies

Friday, October 25, 2013

Mercyhurst University announced today the launch of the Institute for Applied Behavioral Studies (MIABS); it will serve as an umbrella for the university’s special education and applied behavior analysis (ABA) programs and a resource providing specialized services to educators, behavior specialists and children and adults with special needs.

“The Institute for Applied Behavioral Studies is going to give us a vehicle by which to grow and expand our services to consumers in the field,” said institute director Phillip Belfiore, Ph.D. “This will increase Mercyhurst’s recognition, establishing us as a national leader in these fields.”

Mercyhurst has long been known as a regional leader in special education and behavior analysis training. However, it was the university's expanded role of providing support services like consultation, professional development and program development that led to the establishment of MIABS. Recent initiatives include:

An autism support classroom, housed in a local public elementary school, which provides cutting-edge educational and behavioral interventions to children and practical experience for Mercyhurst students.
The OASIS Program, a post-secondary education program for adults with disabilities, which offers real-world training and job placement.
An Autism Spectrum Disorder Endorsement, a three-course, 12-credit program for eligible educators and behavioral professionals that can be earned in less than a year. It is the first program of its kind in northwestern Pennsylvania.
Graduate Assistantships, contracted by regional school districts and service providers, that provide students with practical experience.
Ongoing training and professional development in the areas of special education, autism and developmental disabilities through contracts with regional schools and organizations.
Case-by-case or programmatic consultation in behavior management and autism for educators and behavioral health professionals. 

“As we reach out to the community, and they become consumers of our services, this not only provides evidence-based services for the community but real-life training opportunities for our graduate students,” said Tom Kitchen, director of certification programs in applied behavior analysis. “This is really a great way to share with the community at large the ways Mercyhurst and the institute are applying the best practices that we teach within our graduate courses.” 

In addition to an external focus, faculty are developing online programming for special education and ABA programs to reach a broader audience and accommodate the schedules of busy professionals aiming to go back to school. 

“The Mercyhurst Institute of Applied Behavioral Studies represents a collective of our shared experience, resources, and passions — it’s Mercyhurst faculty who have been pioneers in training competent behavioral scientists,” said Jonathan Ivy, Ph.D., director of the master’s program in applied behavior analysis. “The institute will provide opportunities to reach well beyond the region and impact practice at a national level.” 

Mercyhurst’s special education and ABA faculty have developed clinical, school and professional development programs and are active researchers who publish and/or present at national and international conferences each year. 

Mercyhurst currently offers both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in special education. In addition, the university offers four different paths to prepare students to apply for certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst or Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst, including: Master of Science in applied behavior analysis, a stand-alone ABA graduate certificate, an ABA concentration in the special education master’s degree program, and an undergraduate concentration in ABA. 

For more information about the Institute for Applied Behavioral Studies, visit e-mail